Shedding (2020)

Shedding is a retro-magical fantasy with a narrative structure created through an inventive use of music, camera work, editing, and actor-body language that harkens the French New Wave movement of the late ’50s. Shedding is the story of a Panda, a bored house cat who longs to escape his life and go outside—and with the slight tinkling of a wind chime in the breeze, Panda gets his wish: he transforms into a human. And during his daylong journey in the outside world, he helps a grieving mother and daughter at odds over the loss of their son and brother, find peace.

If you haven’t guessed: Shedding isn’t an A-List Hollywood cute-cat movie starring Will Ferrell with an over-the-top interpretation of a human-cat romancing a career-driven Kristen Wiig and redeeming mom Lin Shayne’s broken soul. This is a film about, just what the title says: shedding. About shedding one’s pains, wants, and needs. About finding a “new coat” through coping and bonding with others—and finding an acceptance and “rebirth” in our lives.

As is the case with the works of Claude Chabrol (La Femme infidel), Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless), and Francois Truffaut (400 Blows) this feature film debut by Jake Thomas (award-winning shorts Blessed are the Peacemakers, One on One) is a film of subjectivity and ambiguity; an existential commentary on the human condition through the mind of a cat, the relationships animals have with humans, and how animals help humans deal with the emotions of loss and longing. It’s a film that, as the credits roll, you’re left wondering: Was it real or was it a dream. And if it was a dream, were the human’s part of the cat’s dream, or vice versa. Did the cat help the humans gain a better understanding of their lives, or the humans of the cat?

As we discussed in our recent reviews of the indie-minimalist masterworks The In-Between by Mindy Bledsoe, Wicca Book by Vahagn Karapetyan, Space by Monte Light, Same Boat by Chris Roberti, Double Riddle by Fernando Castro Sanguino, and Ghost by Anthony Z. James these modestly-budgeted tales from the John Cassavetes narrative school of filmmaking that focus on characters and story that are shot with handheld cameras, available lighting, and spontaneous actor improvisation isn’t easily digested by a mass audience—an audience that most likely dismisses the iPhone-based films of first-time filmmakers Jody Barton and James Cullen Bressack (For Jennifer) and have no interest in the recent low-budgeted, iPhone-shot works of multi-award winning director Stephen Soderbergh (Unsane).

Inspired by the likes of his fellow filmmakers who started their careers with low budget DIY feature films, such as Christopher Nolan (Following), Robert Rodriquez (El Mariachi), and Kevin Smith (Clerks), Thomas, who’s worked as a script reader and other various film disciplines for Lakeshore Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros., began crafting a “storytelling experiment” capturing footage of his cats on an iPhone with the intent of placing the audience in the mind of an animal protagonist. After pouring through the hours and hours of archival footage of his cats to weave a narrative, he then spent the next twelve days iPhone-shooting the second act of his live action fairytale that worked with a combination of script and actor improvisation.

The new December 2020 theatrical one-sheet courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media.

I know. I know. I keep coming back to Will Eubank analogies.

But it’s true: If Will Eubank was able to make the transition with his under-the-radar, low-budget science fiction dramas Love (2011) and The Signal (2014) to directing Underwater, a major motion picture for 20th Century Fox, the same good fortune will come to Jake Thomas.

It’s not the technology. It’s not the “cost” of the filmmaking tool. It’s the person behind the technology that creates great film. And Shedding isn’t just a great film—it’s an incredible film.

A quick meet-and-greet with director Jake Thomas.

On November 12, 2020, Freestyle Digital Media, the digital film distribution division of Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, acquired the North American distribution rights. Shedding will be available to rent and own on DVD, digital HD internet, cable, and satellite platforms on December 8, 2020. You can follow the career of Jake Thomas and the film’s progress on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews and short stories of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes film reviews and analysis for B&S About Movies.

Disclaimer: We were intrigued by this film’s advance press and trailer and contacted the filmmaker for a review screener. As you can tell, the film didn’t disappoint.

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